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COOL has support in Senate, too

Mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) has gone from being controversial to...well, just plain cool.

At least that's the way it seemed in the U.S. Senate Tuesday when 31 senators wrote Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), urging him to include the House farm bill compromise language on COOL that was adopted last summer.

The effort to convince Harkin was organized by Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), the original Senate sponsor of COOL in the 2002 farm bill.

"Because of USDA's inability over the past five years to create a workable and common-sense rule, now is the time for congressional intervention to ensure the long-awaited implementation of mandatory COOL," wrote Johnson and 30 colleagues from both political parties. "The consensus reached by strong COOL proponents and COOL opponents represents a reasonable compromise and finally clears the way to timely and reasonable implementation. The problems and concerns created by USDA among producers, packers and retailers are alleviated by this compromise language.

"Failure of the Senate to include identical language to solidify this agreement from the onset of our farm bill debate creates an unnecessary opportunity for some to generate obstacles at a time when great momentum forward has been achieved."

During a press conference on Tuesday, Harkin didn't seem to disagree.

"We'll probably do something very similar to what the House language is," Harkin told reporters.

That compromise set up three categories for imported red meats. Meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. would have a U.S. label. Meat from imported animals fed and slaughtered here would list the country of origin and the U.S. as sources. And imported meats would have the country of origin on the label. Ground meats would list several countries as possible sources.

National Farmers Union president Tom Buis was involved in negotiating that compromise between producer groups that wanted the COOL language of the 2002 farm bill put into effect and meat packers and commodity groups that opposed it. Buis said Wednesday that he hasn't heard of any public opposition to putting the House language in the Senate farm bill.

"I think it's a done deal," Buis told Agriculture Online. "It's going to happen and I think the language will be put in in the chairman's mark. I don't think there will be any major changes. I think everyone's cool."

Mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) has gone from being controversial to...well, just plain cool.

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